Brazil's Bolsonaro wants to discuss Amazon fires at UN
In this handout photo released by the government news agency Agencia Brasil, Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, center, talks with the reporters outside the presidential official residence Alvorada Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. (Antonio Cruz/Agencia Brasil via AP)
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Monday he was eager to speak about the Amazon fires that have drawn world attention at the next U.N. General Assembly in September, as the issue appeared to erode his support at home.
Bolsonaro told reporters in Brasilia that he wanted to speak "with patriotism" about the Amazon, a region he said was ignored by previous administrations.
"I will not accept alms from any country in the world under the pretext of preserving the Amazon when it is being divided into lots and sold," the far-right president said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week suggested holding a meeting to address the fires that have engulfed part of Brazil's rainforest.
Bolsonaro, however, will not attend a reunion of regional leaders whose countries include parts of the Amazon rainforest that is scheduled for Friday in Colombia. Brazilian government spokesman Otavio Rego Barros said Monday that Bolsonaro could not go because of upcoming surgery to treat a hernia. Bolsonaro was stabbed in the abdomen during the presidential campaign.
The Brazilian Amazon saw 30,901 fires in August, the highest for the month since 2010, according to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research.
The numbers have drawn international criticism over the government's approach to environmental issues and its pro-business agenda, and seem to be eroding Bolsonaro's popularity at home.
Polling institute Datafolha reported Monday that 38 per cent of Brazilians disapproved of the government's actions - the worst since coming to power on Jan. 1- and with just 29 per cent of the population backing it.
Datafolha interviewed 2,878 people Aug. 29-30 and with a 2-percentage point margin of error.
Ministers for the environment, agriculture and defence were part of a trip Monday to Belem, in the Amazon state of Para, to discuss ongoing fires in the area.
In a statement, human rights group Amnesty International said authorities had to investigate and prosecute those responsible for illegal fires, "otherwise we will inevitably see them getting worse throughout the rest of President Bolsonaro's time in office."